Mumbai: Sensing a discrepancy in what’s on the papers and what the authorities are claiming about cutting down trees for Metro III, residents of the very green Jamshedji Tata road in Churchgate have got an independent tree enumeration survey done with the help of a botanist.
The census, conducted by Panvel-based botanist Dr Chandrashekhar C Marathe, over two days found a total of 144 leafy individuals — 143 trees and a woody shrub — on the avenue that stretches from Eros Cinema in Churchgate to Madame Cama Road (at Gandhi statue garden).
Ruchir Bansal, a resident living in the vicinity, explained why they took the pains to ensure that an independent naturist was hired for the job instead of the residents doing it. The Environment Impact Report (EIA) for Metro III, which will run underground from Colaba to SEEPZ in Andheri, states only six trees have been observed at the Churchgate Metro station location. “However, at the public consultation (held by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation on March 5), the authorities said they have sought permission to cut down 70 trees.
These development initiatives in the city cannot take away the large green cover which has existed for decades,” said Bansal.
“Though the tree species are not from rare or endangered categories, their size and the height make them unique. It is significant that 20% of the trees are above 300cm girth. There are 65 fruit-bearing trees. This amounts to 45% of the total trees.
The fruit-bearing trees play an important role in providing fruits and shelter to birds, bats and squirrels. A significant number of fruit-bearing trees like Ficus benghalensis are important for sustaining local bird species.
Some of the trees are more than 40 years old. Almost all the trees are showing healthy growth. However, massive civil developmental work would hamper their growth.
Considering the size of the trees (except Ficus species), giant trees with more than 150cm girth would not sustain the shock due to relocation,” said the report handed over to the residents.
Most of the residents, many living in heritage buildings on the avenue, have decided to write to the authorities to register their concerns with them.
“The trees on this road provide shade not only to the residents but also to the lakhs of officegoers that use it daily on their way to Nariman Point.
We are saddened over the loss of this green cover which has taken decades to grow and we feel it’s important for it to be preserved. So we felt that this survey needed to be done,” said Shefali Kapadia, a resident of Thakur Niwas.
A map prepared by the botanist shows exactly how these trees are placed along the road. “This is a tree boulevard and it’s sad they want to get rid of it.
This is the last art deco heritage area left of Mumbai and taking away these trees will change the entire topography of the area,” rued resident Lolita Shivdasani.